Introduction: The Accounts III: The Manuscripts

The Estate and Household Accounts of William Worsley Dean of St Paul's Cathedral 1479-1497. Originally published by Shaun Tyas on behalf of Richard III and Yorkist Trust and the London Record Society, Donington, 2004.

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'Introduction: The Accounts III: The Manuscripts', in The Estate and Household Accounts of William Worsley Dean of St Paul's Cathedral 1479-1497, (Donington, 2004) pp. 37-38. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol40/pp37-38 [accessed 29 February 2024]

IV. The Accounts III: The Manuscripts

Three types of accounts have been included in this edition. The bulk of the material edited consists of accounts of Dean Worsley's receiver, Roger Radcliff. They represent the final stage in the accounting procedure and were designed to be presented to the Dean's auditor and, as the signature on several of the documents shows, to the Dean himself. As Radcliff combined the steward of the household's responsibilities for provisioning with the receiver's fiscal duties, large parts of the expenditure side of the accounts detail purchases for the household along with the cash liveries to the lord falling strictly into the receiver's remit.

When presenting his accounts for audit, Radcliff would produce the documentation kept in the course of the accounting year in support of his claims. At the most basic level this would consist of wooden tallies and paper or parchment bills and indentures made out by the Dean's officials or suppliers. Following the audit and passing of the accounts, there was no further need for these supplementary documents, and it is likely that they were discarded, which explains their failure to survive. For additional security, the receiver would enter particulars of receipts and expenditure in his books of receipts and expenses on a daily and weekly basis. The books themselves do not survive, but frequent references in Radcliff's accounts give an indication of their organisation. Their contents were carefully arranged in different categories. Purchases of cloth, spices and other necessaries would all be recorded on separate pages, as would payments for fees and liveries of servants, of which meticulous lists of names and particulars were kept. At the next level, and probably in order to facilitate the compilation of the annual account, certain transactions would then be entered into the 'quarterly paper'. (fn. 1)

The receiver's accounts survive from 1479–80, starting at Michaelmas following Worsley's institution as dean, to 1496–97. Their run is not complete, and no accounts survive for the years 1483–84, 1485–87, and 1490–95. The date of the final extant account is significant. It is a view of account drawn up after the death of Roger Radcliff, the Dean's first receiver, in late 1496, suggesting that the system of record keeping in operation in Worsley's household owed much to his personal efforts, and may have declined towards the end of his life.

Also included are two sets of ministers' accounts, documents drawn up on the occasion of the annual accounting of the farmers and other officials responsible for the Dean's revenue locally. The first of these sets, for 1493–94, is incomplete and accounts survive only for the Essex manors of Walton, Kirby and Thorpe, Heybridge, Runwell, and Caddington and Kensworth in Bedfordshire. The second set, dating from 1496–98, is more comprehensive, including the prebend of Willesden, Bowes and Polehouse, Ardleigh, Norton Folgate and the archdeaconry of Nottingham in addition to the above manors. A single surviving example is also included of an individual minister's account, separate from the two sets of accounts, albeit closely related, is the account of the Dean's collector of rents in the city of London and at Norton Folgate, John Clerk, for the year 1484–85.

In the same way as the terms of tenure varied locally, so did minister's and farmers' accounting practices. Whereas the Dean's receiver always presented his account in the second half of July, the farmers and local officials were taken to account at different points in the year, varying according to local custom. Most commonly, the farmers accounted at the feast of St. Peter ad vincula on 1 August. This was the custom at Walton, Thorpe, Heybridge, Runwell, Bowes and Polehouse in Edmonton, Ardleigh and the 'grace' of Willesden. Earlier, at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on 24 June, the farmers of the two Bedfordshire manors of Caddington and Kensworth presented their accounts. The officials in charge of collecting the Dean's rents in the soke of St. Paul's and the revenues in the archdeaconry of Nottingham, as well as the farmer of the prebend of Willesden accounted at Easter, while the farmer of the manor of Norton Folgate drew his account up at the feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin (25 March). (fn. 2)

The receiver's accounts consist of several sheets of paper sewn end to end, and using one side of the paper only. The 1493–94 set of minister's accounts is made up of four sheets, and the 1496–97 set of six sheets of paper. Both sets are sewn together at the top; both sides of the paper are used. The rent collector's account is made up of two sheets, sewn end to end. The language of the accounts is Latin, although English words are often interjected for weights, measures and commodities. The receiver's accounting was generally accurate, with only occasional amendments by the auditors, although minor errors went unnoticed in most of the accounts. Blanks in the text show that the main body was compiled in advance, presumably based on the previous year's account, and only figures varying from the norm would be added later. (fn. 3)

Footnotes

  • 1. For these procedures see document 3, below. Neither the 'quarterly papers' nor Radcliff's books of particulars have survived, but similar books are referred to in the accounts of the bishop of London's receiver, George Chauncy, in 1509–10 (PRO, SC6/HenVIII/2109, rot. 5), and survive from Durham Priory in the 1530s (The Durham household book: or The accounts of the bursar of the monastery of Durham. From Pentecost 1530 to Pentecost 1534, ed. James Raine [London, Surtees Soc. 18, 1844]).
  • 2. Documents 11, 12, below.
  • 3. For examples of errors, amendments and insertions see the entries for Thorpe, Walton, Kirby and Wickham St. Paul in document 3, below.